The attempt to get native Germans to live peacefully side-by-side with foreigners has not worked. In an unprecedented admission that is sure to transform the debate in Germany (and in Europe as a whole), over uncontrolled mass immigration, especially from Muslim countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now concedes that German multiculturalism has “failed utterly.”
Speaking to a meeting of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Potsdam outside Berlin on October 16, Merkel said: “We are a country which at the beginning of the 1960s actually brought [Muslim] guest workers to Germany. Now they live with us and we lied to ourselves for a while, saying that they will nott stay and that they will have disappeared again one day. That is not the reality. This multicultural approach—saying that we simply live side by side and are happy about each other—this approach has failed, failed utterly.”
Merkel’s sobering comments follow the publication in October of a survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think tank linked to the center-left Social Democratic Party [SPD], which found that 55% of Germans believe that Arabs are “unpleasant,” and over 33% believe the country is being “overrun” by immigrants. The study also noted that “far-right attitudes” are not isolated at the extremes of German society, but to a large degree “at the center of it.”
The debate over what to do about Germany’s broken immigration system has been simmering for years, but began in earnest in August, when Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker, and also a long-time member of the SPD, published a controversial new book titled “Germany Does Away With Itself.” The book broke Germany’s long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration by highlighting painful truths about the current state of affairs.
At the time, Merkel sought to distance herself from Sarrazin’s views and called for his dismissal from the German Central Bank. In a September 3 interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet, for example, Merkel labelled as “ridiculous” Sarrazin’s view that there were too many immigrants, particularly Muslims, in Germany, and that their presence was damaging the country. She also told Germans they must get used to mosques as part of Germany’s changing landscape.
But pressure from within the CDU over integration may now be prompting Merkel to take a tougher line on immigration. Disastrous opinion polls and right-wing dissatisfaction with her perceived “left-wing” conservatism have led to an open discussion about an early replacement for Germany’s first woman leader.
In any event, Sarrazin’s concerns over Muslim integration are resonating with the German population at large, and politicians like Merkel are taking note. Sarrazin’s book has topped the bestseller list on bookseller Amazon’s German website since its publication, and book tour dates across the country are sold out. Polls show broad public support for Sarrazin’s anger that many Muslim immigrants shut themselves off from Germany, do not speak German and do not share the German or Western worldview.